Becoming a Big Sibling

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To my first baby,

It was just us for so long. And then, one day, we knew it wouldn’t be like that anymore. You were going to be a big brother. Mommy was going to be the mom to two amazing little people. 
 
I remember feeling concerned when I got pregnant with your baby sister. How would you adjust? Would you hate being a big brother or relish the opportunity to be a big helper and role model? There was no way I could understand that it would all be okay until I experienced it firsthand.
 
When you asked to see your baby sister on FaceTime while we were in the hospital because you couldn’t visit.
 
When you held your baby sister for the first time.
 
When you’d wake up because you heard her crying and were upset, she had a hard time.
 
When you proudly share with everyone that you are a big brother now.
 
When you tell us what we need to do to help your baby sister because you already know and think we should move faster, or you do it yourself because you are a big kid now…

Each moment you spend with your sister makes me love you even more. I know we are early in our journey as a family of four, but I should never have doubted that you would thrive in your new role. I know things won’t always be easy, but I truly believe you were made to be an older sibling. I couldn’t be more proud of you. Or more grateful that I have the privilege to be your mom. 

 
All my love,
 
Mommy
 
Author’s son and new baby | Photo Credit: Author

Are you expecting a new baby? Here are a few tips for helping your toddler or preschooler prepare to transition into their role as an older sibling:

1. Use examples to discuss what is happening and what to expect. There are tons of resources available for soon-to-be older brothers and sisters. We read lots of books, watched Daniel Tiger episodes focused on becoming an older sibling, and found examples of babies around us to highlight what my son could expect when I went to the hospital to give birth and when his sister came home. 
 
2. Give your child the opportunity to practice being gentle, and recognize them when doing so. Baby dolls are a great tool for this, but so are pets! We did both. We have continued “catching him being a helper” after our second came home, and he feels so much pride when we do so. 
 
3. Be supportive of big feelings. Bringing home a new baby is a major adjustment, and that adjustment often begins during pregnancy. My son found me being pregnant a challenge; I was slower, less able to pick him up, more tired, and later in my pregnancy, unable to do much of anything because of strict rest orders. It wasn’t easy transitioning from running around, hiking, climbing, and horsing around to being unable to do so. Be mindful that the changes in your family may be difficult for your child(ren), and give them (and yourself) extra grace. Lean into the feelings rather than trying to suppress them. And try to make the changes enjoyable! We spent lots of time enjoying our precious quiet moments; cuddling, reading, watching TV, doing puzzles, and playing games I could participate in while sitting.
 
4. Have your older child/children attend ultrasound appointments. Seeing his sister in my belly helped my son start conceptualizing what was happening and build excitement. 
 
5. Talk to the baby together. Talking and singing to his sister before she was born also helped my son understand that another human was joining our family. 
 
6. Spend time with babies in your life, if possible. My son was lucky that some of his friends had new baby siblings when I was pregnant. We spent time with them and discussed things they did or needed that my daughter (and my son’s sister) would, too. 

What has your experience been with adding another sibling to your family?

 
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Erin is the mother of one sweet, rambunctious toddler and wife to a talented chef. Professionally, she is a former special educator and preschool teacher, and is currently a cognitive neuroscience researcher and Ph.D candidate in Cognitive Science in Education with specializations in neuroscience, cognitive development, and neurodiversity/autism. She holds masters degrees in cognitive science, and neuroscience in education, from Teachers College, Columbia University, and undergraduate degrees in special education (with an additional concentration in elementary education and a minor in English) and early childhood education. As the wife of a chef, food is a huge part of her family culture, and she enjoy both cooking and baking. Some of her other hobbies include hiking, traveling, jogging, meditation, animal rescue, playing piano and guitar, crafting, reading, and of course, writing. You can follow her parenting journey and pick up tips on great kids activities here on Westchester Moms Blog, as well as her website (www.themindfullyscientificmama.com), Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts.

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